Shoeless Joe

Paul unpacked his dreams
in the wrong language.

His fear of not being understood
fumbled away all the umlauts.

Now refugees, his dreams
wandered into other people’s sleep.

Immigration services refused to find his dreams.
Paul cried into his hands.

His damp hands smeared the paperwork.
Reduced the number of pills in the prescribed bottle.

Far too few pills to sleep once.
No where near enough to meet his ancestors.

On the way home, Paul drove by
one of his dreams sitting at the bus stop.

His solitary dream refused to enter his car
for a ride home.

It claimed to be in the process of self actualization
with a bus ticket to Dyersville, Iowa.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Note: Dyersville, Iowa is the town nearest to the Field of Dreams site.

Mother’s Face Never Makes an Appearance

In a dream Lori was a pack of cigarettes.
Each new man she dated
withdrew a smoke and lit it on fire
and after one long drag left it to smolder
on the edge of an ashtray.

In another dream Lori was a TV remote
where the previous channel button
returned the view to a news station
that only covered mass shootings
with explicit footage and detailed descriptions.

In Wednesday’s dream Lori
was a volcano that erupted laughter
and nitrous oxide into the atmosphere
until the plume surrounded the earth
following the jet-stream’s curved line.

On nine-eleven Lori dreamt
she was a staircase in the north tower.
She was glad people walked all over her—
sad when gravity overcame damaged structure
and brought her world tumbling down.

On New Year’s Eve Lori dreamt
all the opportunities she missed in the previous year
especially how the camera adored her
in a culture where plus-sized models
were celebrated on page and screen.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Memory Closet’s Corroded Doorknob

My unfinished dreams
sent me a strike notice.

They picketed the ghost towns
of my mind

and inhabited all the empty buildings
of those neighborhoods.

It was not that I forgot to work on them
but resources were scarce

due to supply chain issues
and intellectual property rights.

And the pandemic dropped
countless yellow rubber ducks

to bob in the Rio Grande
where no kids splashed bath water.

My unfinished dreams
carried signs and told

unbearable stories
in squeaky voices

so I would repair the boardwalks
along the ocean ghost towns

and light them up
with various amusements.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Flame Under an Iron Pot Heats Water

I am saddled with dreams.
Ridden like a horse.

The dreams line up
to form a misshapen narrative.

A novel written in codes
out of sequence.

Unable to sleep
due to sepia images

of John Brown at the gallows
in Charles Town Virginia

I wonder what part of my self
requires emancipation.

Or if my hand is the slaver’s
whip cracking hand

stroking the backs
on people who I claim to love.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Matchbox Souvenir Collection

Jesus reached down from heaven
and placed his hand
on Lori while she slept.
He quieted her nightmare heart
with the unintended consequence
she dreamt kissing the lips
of the Christ on the Cross
in at least one local church per day
while on a great American road trip.
Her road trip started
at the ferris wheel
on Santa Monica pier
and traveled U.S. Highways
all the way to Roosevelt
Campobello International Park
near Eastport Maine
with many stops in between
for red place-of-interest boxes
sprinkled across the map.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Night Light

Paul slept with a river smooth rock
under his pillow.

And a piece of petrified wood
machine-polished smooth.

On his nightstand
a dozen shaped clay snails

carried lustrous shells
collected from the garden’s carnage.

As sleep’s easy breath
shifted into a nightmare’s labored breathing

fog emerged from Paul’s mouth
as if the infernal dream tried to take shape.

The vapor froze into crystals that sparkled
lit with phosphorescence.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

While Wearing the Wrong Talisman

The radio turned on by itself.
It played a Cubs-Mets game from nineteen-sixty-nine.

The mirror turned black.
It chose to absorb light rather than reflect it.

My clothes rained
when I wore them outside under the sun.

Gold rings are bad in Fairy Tales
so I refused to give one to my beloved at our wedding.

A towhee perched above our sleep
caught our dreams like moths.

A flicker pecked ear-worms
out of my drummed head.

In a curiosity shop we came upon
a crucifix pencil.

To write a poem the Christ’s head bobbed
back and forth with google-eyes.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Day Dream

I imagined years apart
how Paul would change
without my influence.

Technicolor hair
tattoos, piercings
and a muscle car.

A fire burns in him
with flames
that lick his face regularly.

And somehow
no drugs or booze
or anything synthetic.

We would meet again
surround by the Pacific.
An island like Tahiti.

Serendipity would have
brought us back together
where lightning struck the beach

and turned to glass
what was granules
an instant before.

Our first discussion in years
would be about
the horizon line on the ocean

dipping back into art school
two point perspective
and the Italian Renaissance painters.

But the conversation
would quickly shift to Gauguin
their common lifestyle

and the joys of cultural immersion
paint, the love of native women
and new foods.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Off-White Parchment

Dora draws
thirteen symbols
with sacred geometry

and imagines Jesus
as a child
with a Spirograph

drawing set
doing similar works
and calling them all Stars.

Dora takes the symbols
cuts them out
in silhouettes

and holds them
up to her eyes
two at a time

so she might
see the dead
among the living

and their efforts
to rise up in pursuit
of new dreams.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Sleep Tortures Paul

He dreams of his daughter
snatched from his hands
by an American eagle,
magicked away by pixies,
torn away by wolves,
held for ransom by kidnappers,
floated out the window on a dark melody
by mysterious musical notes,
swallowed whole by a snake,
lifted skyward by the thumb
and index finger of God.

He wakes shuddering.
His hands feel so empty
they might as well not exist.
Touch cannot be trusted
ever again.

He can not shake this feeling
that he was pulled
far outside himself,
futilely trying to stop
the tragedy, holding on
until the predatory
Angel of Death
pried his fingers
away from dear life.

copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney